âSerena Williams, Simone Biles, Coco-mania and more!
2019 was quite a year in sports, and Black women athletes shined throughout.
From the worlds of boxing, gymnastics, soccer, swimming, tennis, marathon running, and more Black Girl Magic was on full display.
âAs the year comes to a close, itâs time to look back at some of our brightest stars inspiring little girls around the world.
Sasha Banks is part of the new and more diverse face of World Wrestling Entertainment and sheâs arguably, one of their biggest stars.
She and partner Bayley won the inaugural WWE Womenâs Tag Team Championship in February during a six team Elimination Chamber match.
They would end up losing the title at Wrestlemania 35, but Banks was part of the first team ever to win the new womenâs title.
2019 was Taylor Townsendâs best year in terms of performance at the grand slam tournaments.
Highlighted by her run to the fourth round of the US Open which included an upset victory over Wimbledon champ and the #4 seed, Simona Halep. It was Townsendâs first victory over a top 10 player in her career.
Townsendâs serve and volley style is a throwback in todayâs power baseline game. She used that style to push eventual US Open champion, Bianca Andreescu, to three tough sets before bowing out.
âWhat made Townsendâs run into the round of 16 so impressive was she did it as a qualifier. She had to win three matches just to make the main draw at the Open. Two of those matches went three sets.
Townsendâs road from world #1 junior in 2012 to the 2019 US Open wasnât a smooth journey.
The United States Tennis Association had concerns that Townsendâs fitness was not where it needed to be to compete at the highest levels going forward, and in an unprecedented move, player-development executives including then-general manager Patrick McEnroe withheld funding for her to travel to major competitions like the U18 nationals and US Open.
âTownsendâs run at the 2019 US Open, a renewed confidence, and a sense of self has her poised to reach once imagined heights.
The goal scoring forward earned her second World Cup gold medal as a member of the 2019 US Women's National Team.
Press was one of four U.S. players to play in all seven World Cup games.
Her memorable moment came in the semifinals against England, USWNT star player Megan Rapinoe was out with an injury and Press stepped up and delivered. Scoring the first goal in a 2-1 victory for the U.S.
She lifted her arms and gazed to the heavens after the goal.
This was a bittersweet moment for Press who lost her mother Stacy earlier this year after the elder Press suffered a brain aneurysm.
Christen honored her mother by wearing Nike boots during the World Cup bearing the numbers 01.23.19âthe day Stacy passed.
Of her celebration, Press said, âI was thinking of my mom.â
The national team mainstay scored her 50th international goal this season, only the 12th player in USWNT history to do so.
Press finished 2019 with 5 goals and 12 assists. Her 12 assists lead the team, she was also the only member of the USWNT to appear in all 24 games in 2019.
Along with her teammates on the US Womenâs National Team, Press is also an advocate for gender equality. And as a âproud Black womanâ she has spoken out on issues of racism within the sport.
The 25-year-old Kenyan marathon runner won the Chicago Marathon in a new womenâs world record time of 2 hours 14 minutes 4 seconds. She shattered the previous mark by 81 seconds.
Kosgei also won the London Marathon earlier this year (April).
Kosgei started on an unreal pace in her first first five kilometers, running a time of 15:28, a pace of 4 minutes 58 seconds per mile. She ran an average of 5:06 per mile the rest of the way.
Her last mile of the grueling 26.2 trek was 5:10, her slowest of the day.
Think about that for a minute.
The last mile in a 26.2 mile race was 5 minutes and 10 seconds. Can the majority of us run one mile in 5:10?
That is incredible. But Kosgei believes she can go even faster.
ââI think 2:10 is possible for a lady,â she said. âI am focused on reducing my time again.â
CORI âCOCOâ GAUFF
At 15 years of age, she is the youngest player ranked in the WTA top 100. Sheâs #68.
She burst onto the scene at this yearâs Wimbledon Championships, defeating five-time champ Venus Williams en route to the 4th round.
The upset victory and increased interest in Gauff pushed tournament officials to move her third round match to Centre Court, an honor reserved for champions and top seeds.
All four of her matches were the most-watched matches on ESPN on their respective days.
She continued to play well throughout the summer and advanced to the third round of the US Open, where she lost to Naomi Osaka.
Gauff ended the year with her first WTA singles title at the Linz Open. She upset top seed Kiki Bertens in the quarterfinals for her first top ten victory. She defeated JeÄ¼ena Ostapenko in the final to become the youngest WTA player to win a singles title since 2004.
âThe future of American womenâs tennis looks to be in great hands.
CLARESSA âT-REXâ SHIELDS
At just 24 years old she is already, arguably, the greatest female boxer in history. Let her tell it, and sheâs the âgreatest woman of all time.â
On April 13th, she became the undisputed female middleweight champion of the world defeating Christina Hammer by unanimous decision.
Shields unified the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO middleweight titles, along with The Ring magazine's inaugural middleweight belt, becoming one of only seven boxers in history, female or male, to hold all four major world titles in boxingâWBA, WBC, IBF and WBOâsimultaneously.
But sheâs done it faster than anyone ever, in just nine fights.
"There's not a woman in this world that can beat me if we put on a pair of gloves and we fight. I've accomplished so much," Shields, who also won gold at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, said in an April interview.
"I'm just the undisputed champion -- I am great as I think I am and I've been able to prove it by taking on these big challenges and beating these girls who they say cannot be beaten."
âItâs pretty hard to argue with that.
Strange to say this but we have gone two calendar years without the âGOAT âwinning a tennis tournament.
Her last win was her 23rd Grand Slam title at the Australian Open when she was eight weeks pregnant with daughter Olympia.
Since then Williams had a near brush with death after the birth of her daughter due to complications from a pulmonary embolism
But Williams returned to the court in 2018 and in the seven grand slams sheâs played since returning, sheâs made the finals four times.
Thatâs a career for some of the best tennis players ever, itâs a reality the majority that play professional tennis will never reach.
But Serena isnât just one of the best or an ordinary player. Sheâs widely considered the best to have ever picked up a racquet.
In 2019 she failed to tie Margaret Courtâs Grand Slam record of 24, but she made the finals of Wimbledon and the US Open.
Williams is 38 years-old and her contemporaries have long since retired. She is playing against the generation that grew up idolizing her.
âFor being able to make the finals of Grand Slams against women 15 years or more her junior is quite the accomplishment.
2019 was an interesting year for Osaka.
She started the year on a high note, backing up her 2018 US Open championship with a win in Australia. Her second grand slam and back-to-back.
The last woman to win consecutive slams was the aforementioned Williams.
Things kind of went south for a bit after that.
She failed to make it into the second week of the French Open or Wimbledon Championships, and she lost in the 4th round of the US Open.
âBut she rebounded nicely to end the year, winning the Pan Pacific and China Open. Thatâs three titles and a year-end rank of #3 in the world.
At this yearâs Fina World Swimming Championships, Manuel became the first American to sweep the 50 and 100 meter sprint freestyle events.
An impressive feat considering the depth of talent in sprint freestyle and Americaâs dominant history in swimming.
Manuel became a star at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. She stunned the swimming world by winning gold in the 100 meter freestyle and following it up with a silver in the 50 meter freestyle.
Since 2016, Manuel has finished no worse than third in the two sprint freestyle events at any major national or international competition.
She capped off the year being named USA Swimmingâs Female Athlete Of The Year at the Golden Goggle Awards.
âManuel will be one month shy of her 24th birthday when the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo take place. If she continues to perform at this level, sheâll be one of the household names of Team USA.
In 2019 Simone Biles completely embodied #BlackGirlMagic.
The Olympic Champion became the most decorated gymnast in World Championship history in 2019. She surpassed Belarusian Vitaly Scherboâs mark of 23 medals, and set the new all-time record at 25.
Of Bilesâ record 25 world championship medals, 19 are gold.
She is rewriting the history books in the sport of gymnastics, changing the way competitions are judged, and stretching the limits of what is possible.
Biles has four original moves named after her and they are among the most difficult elements in the sport.
âWhat she continues to do is mindblowing. She is the Greatest Gymnast Of All Time and the definition of excellence.
âEach kid received a minimum of $500 and were flown out on the Patriots team plane to Gillette Stadium to meet Tom Brady.
âIf youâre forced to fall or if you fell, you should be able to get up regardless and move forward in life.â
Those were the words from the ubiquitous DJ Khaled, who was on hand at the NBA Store in New York City Saturday morning (December 21) along with the REFORM Alliance founding members Michael Rubin, Meek Mill, and Clara Wu Tsai.
Rubin and the REFORM Alliance leadership, along with Khaled and Brooklyn Netsâ star Caris LeVert, were part of a delegation spreading holiday cheer for several dozen children who have been adversely affected by an unjust probation system.
The REFORM Alliance started with the unjust re-imprisonment of Meek Mill due to minor technical probation violations. At the time, the Philly rapper received a startling two-to-four year sentence. The shocking sentence started the international #FreeMeek movement, which led to his release on bail in April 2018.
Being a high profile celebrity with power and powerful friends, Meek was able to fight and win his case. Coming from humble beginnings he knew that wasnât the reality for almost everyone else caught up in an unjust criminal justice system. â
Together with Rubin, who is also a Philadelphia 76ers Partner, Meek wanted to do more, and became committed to changing mass supervision laws (probation and parole policies).
The REFORM Alliance boasts some of the biggest leaders and names in business, government, entertainment, sports, technology, art, and culture. Including New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and hip hop mogul Jay-Z.
But Saturday wasnât about celebrity status, it was about making kids smile and bringing some joy to their lives during this holiday season.
Children who currently have a parent in prison or on parole for a technicality, or who previously had a parent in the probation and parole system were brought in from New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania for the event.
According to the event organizers, a single child was given a gift card of $500. A family received a gift card of $1,000, and larger families received a higher amount. These gift cards could be used to purchase anything in the NBAâs flagship consumer store.
Throughout the morning kids and parents alike were buzzing with excitement deciding which jersey of their favorite NBA superstar to purchase or team paraphernalia. It was an early Christmas for these families in need.
Following the shopping spree at the NBA Store, the kids and their families were flown up to Gillette Stadium on the New England Patriots team plane to meet Kraft, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, and watch the game against the Buffalo Bills that evening.
âWe want to make a really special day for all of you,â Rubin said in his remarks that began the day. âWe want you to have a great time. Have a shopping spree. Enjoy meeting everyone. Get a chance to fly on the Patriots team plane, and meet Robert Kraft. See a Patriots game and spend some time on the field.â
The probation and parole laws obviously impact the parolee and person on probation, but it has an undue burden on their families as well. Not only financially, but emotionally.
âI watched Meek go through the holiday season without his family when he was locked up. It was awful for him to live through and it was awful for me to watch,â Rubin told BET.
âWe want to make sure that all these kids that are here that have parents that are currently incarcerated or previously incarcerated for technical violations. Again, they didnât commit a crime. We want to make sure we give them one of the best days of their lives,â Rubin added.
For Meek, the man who spurred a revolution, it was a surreal moment. As he was about to take the microphone from Rubin and address the attendees, a kid said, âMeek Mill, you are my rap idol!â
BET asked Meek, what it meant to hear those words from a child.
âItâs a blessing to have a little kid from where I come from say he looks up to me and what I stand for,â he explained.
Meek and Rubin seem like an unlikely pair of friends, but their friendship is born from a genuine curiosity both men share. Through their friendship, hours of conversation and debate, Rubin finally came to understand the concept of âtwo Americasâ.
âToday, was Mikeâs idea,â Meek said. âI inform Mike of everything from âthe other side of America.â What we go through, and things I went through coming up and my upbringing.â
It was an especially busy, but rewarding day for Meek as he pulled double duty. Hanging with the kids at the NBA Store for the REFORM Alliance, and then immediately whisking down to his hometown of Philadelphia where he hosted a toy giveaway a few hours later.
For the REFORM Alliance, Saturdayâs event with the kids and their families was a highlight in the painstaking marathon of enacting change to an archaic and racist criminal justice system. After the kids and their families enjoy this day, the work continues.
âRight now in Pennsylvania we have a House Bill and Senate Bill we hope to get done by the end of January (2020),â Rubin said. âThat will change thousands of lives and hundreds of thousands of peoplesâ familiesâ lives...we want to fix the overall problem.â
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 6.6 million people are currently in the criminal justice system in the United States and 4.5 million of those are currently on parole or probation. As a nation, the United States spends more than $80 billion dollars annually on corrections, more than any other country by a wide margin.
So often when looking at fixing the injustices and problems that exist within a society, cosmetic fixes are usually the end result. Changing systems and infrastructures is intensive and quite frankly, met with resistance.
But it appears that REFORM is in it for the long term. Founding member Clara Wu Tsai, wife of billionaire businessman and Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai, sees the challenge in making change but knows it can be done.
âIâve been interested in economic mobility for most of my life,â Tsai told BET. âWe canât talk about economic mobility without talking about criminal justice reform. Itâs a long-term game. Itâs trying to change laws and policy. We know thatâs not easy. So at the same time we are also trying to change the narrative. We are trying to change hearts and minds, so that people are aware of these issues and thatâs partly why we are doing this today. We want more people to know about the injustices, especially around imprisonment for technical, non-criminal violations.â
Those words undoubtedly resonated with the families in attendance.
A man who identified himself to BET as James White of Newark, New Jersey was at the event with two of his children and he recanted a story of how he was caught up in the system.
White told BET he was on probation for a year on a drug possession charge. He received a letter in the mail saying he violated his probation and he was due to appear in court. Not believing it was anything serious he opted not to wear a suit, and showed up to court in an Edgerrin James (retired NFL player) throwback jersey.
The presiding judge told White he failed to pay a fine. White said, âI thought I paid all my fines. But I have the money now and can pay.â
According to White the judge said, âI see you are wearing a jersey. Those are pretty expensive. I can tell that you have money because of what youâre wearing. But I donât want your money. I want your time..â The judge gave White another year of probation and doubled the fine.
In this instance White was one of the lucky ones and he knows it.
âIn that situation I was more fortunate than a lot of other people,â he said. âA lot of people get sent to prison to finish their parole.â
âItâs not just the judges or probation system. Itâs the continuous harassment. Itâs the system itself that allows for harassment and racism. Because Iâll be honest, I did run into a judge that was fair. But they only exist in the cracks,â White concluded.
The REFORM Alliance and its members through their efforts believe that as a collective they can enact true change at the policy level, and end the revolving door that is probation and parole.
âIf only for a brief moment, the joy experienced by the kids on Saturday is a reminder of why this fight is so necessary and ultimately worth it.
There are just a few weeks remaining in 2019, and you know what that means?
Itâs time to pull out all the stops on definitive lists and rankings of the year that was.
We are going to take a look back at some of the best NBA and NFL feuds that stood the test of time this year and created the biggest baller âbeefsâ of 2019.
Who won? Who lost? Weâll declare an overall âwinnerâ and holder of the 2019 Social Media Smackdown Championship Belt for âBest Social Media Sports Feud.â
Thatâs a long title. Weâll continue to workshop that.
In any event, letâs take a look at some of the best feuds from this year.
âDRAYMOND GREEN VS. TONY DURANT
Yes. Tony Durant, brother of Drayâs former teammate Kevin Durant.
âLetâs start at the beginning.
âThis feud goes back to 2018 when KD and Dray had that infamous âblow upâ in Los Angeles during a game. Here is a look back, video courtesy of NBC Sports Bay Area.
âImmediately following the incident, Tony took to Instagram Stories to share his thoughts on Dray.
KD has since left the Warriors via free agency in July and is now a member of the Brooklyn Nets.
But this summer Tony posted a picture on Instagram of his mother, and KD holding Tonyâs newborn child.
Dray, never one to let anything slide, had to hop in the comments and say something.
âHe did congratulate Tony, sort of...
Dray plays the game with an edge and lives his truth by always saying whatâs on his mind.
For better and for worse.
Any slight or perceived insult is fuel and motivation for him. Heâs not unlike many other athletes in that way.
It also is hard for him to let things go. So he couldnât resist a parting shot at Tony.
Winner: Draymond Green, for sheer pettiness if nothing else.
âKEVIN DURANT VS. CHRIS BROUSSARD
This one could literally be KD vs. just about anybody on social media.
The seven foot basketball genius loves to clapback on any and all social media platforms.
Earlier this year, while KD was still a member of the Warriors and got injured in the Western Conference semifinals against the Rockets, Fox Sportsâ Chris Broussard was on television saying if the Warriors win without KD it would be Durantâs âworst nightmare.â
âKD responded in kind and it set off a firestorm. Fans and media alike were reacting to KDâs reaction.
Broussard continued to assert his claim and KD refuted him again.
âBroussard doubled down hard.
âKD was asked by Warriors beat reporter, Connor Letourneau, why he responds to critics on social media.
Another classic case of he said, he said.
KD is undeniably one of the greatest basketball players of all-time. Two-time champ, two-time Finals MVP. 10-time All-Star, nine-time All-NBA, and a league MVP.
It bothers some people that a person of his stature and accomplishment chooses to engage in social media beef. For that reason alone, people would easily give him an âLâ on any social media interaction.
Weâre going a different route.
Winner: Everyone. These interactions provide content and fodder for posts, podcasts, and tv show segments. This is entertainment. Are you not entertained?!
BAKER MAYFIELD VS. TONY GROSSI
The Cleveland Browns quarterback does not like the ESPN Browns beat reporter and local on-air host.
Their beef goes back to information Grossi wrote about Mayfieldâs âdemandsâ when visiting the Browns prior to the 2018 NFL Draft, according to ProFootballTalk.
âGrossi and Mayfield have a history: Grossi reported before the 2018 NFL draft that Mayfield had demanded first-class airfare when making pre-draft visits and suggested that made Mayfield a prima donna, something people close to Mayfield took issue with. Grossi said today that Mayfieldâs issue with him stems from that.â
Their interactions since then have always been, curt.
In October, following a loss, things heated up between the two in Mayfieldâs postgame media availability.
â*Video courtesy of cleveland.com
âAfter that exchange, Mayfield took to Twitter to vent more.
âI think it goes back to the pre-draft conversations we had, things I said, things I wrote. OK, fine, but you have to move along,â Grossi said. âI tried to talk to him twice, alone, but he just wants no part of that. If heâs not going to do that I have to do my job as best as I can.â
Mayfield, much like Draymond Green, plays with an edge and uses slights as motivation.
Draymond gets leeway because he has backed up his edge with success and accomplishments. Mayfield has yet to do so. Also of note, Draymond doesnât really spar with the media.
Grossi has rubbed more than one athlete the wrong way. But, that is part and parcel with the gig. No matter how much it might be wrong.
Going after a player for his performance is all fair game in media. Going after a player personally or being particularly critical because of personal issues is not.
Has Grossi been somewhat unfair? Yes. Has Mayfield been a little petulant and churlish? Yes.
âWinner: Push. Neither party looks good here.
âODELL BECKHAM JR. VS. THE NEW YORK GIANTS
The current Cleveland Browns wide receiver started his career with the Giants. In his five seasons in New York, OBJ had 390 receptions for 5,476 receiving yards, and 44 touchdowns. He made routine highlight plays and was the lone bright spot on a mediocre franchise.
But, the Giants thought he was too much of a âdistraction.â
In a sport that preaches and trumpets the virtues of conformity, OBJ was too much of an individual.
After extending his contract, 5-years/$96 million with $65 million in guarantees in 2018, the Giants traded him to the Browns this summer.
OBJ did a wide-ranging interview with GQ, after the trade.
"My initial reaction was not disappointmentâ¦ I felt disrespected," Beckham said about the moment he found out he was traded to the Browns -- adding that he didn't care what the Giants got back. "Like, after everything I've done for them. This is me being honest..."
The Giantsâ general manager, Dave Gettleman, was matter of fact in his response to the situation, stating that trading OBJ was in the teamâs best interest.
In his new home in Cleveland, OBJ is still being himself.
Heâs made spectacular catches. Heâs been fined for wearing âJokerâ inspired cleats. He rocked a $2 million Richard Mille watch on the field.
OBJâs numbers are down, but so are his targets. Thatâs something he canât control. The Browns coaching staff and quarterback need to figure out how to get their most dynamic player the ball more often.
The Browns are 5-6 and still âaliveâ in the playoff hunt. The Giants are 2-9 and headed towards a top pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
âWinner: OBJ. Heâs exciting, fun, and a personality. Oh, and heâs pretty good at that football thing too!
âLEBRON JAMES VS. #WASHEDKING CRITICS
Bron is averaging 25 points, 10 assists, and 7 rebounds per game for the 14-2 Los Angeles Lakers.
âIn early November, after posting his third straight triple-double in a win, Bron took to social media to address his critics.
Funny thing about those âcritics.â Who are they?
If you do a cursory search you donât find anyone who says Bron is washed. What you will find are several NBA analysts and media people who ask the question, after 17 seasons in the NBA with a historic minutes load, will this be the year Bron slows down?
Thatâs a far cry from washed. Itâs also a reasonable question to ask.
How long can he keep this up?
The saying goes, father time is undefeated. Time eventually catches up to everyone, even the great ones.
But, for now, it seems as though Bron is keeping time at bay.
âWinner: Bron. If for no other reason than, we donât know who these critics are. A certain talking head on Fox doesnât count.
âHOUSTON ROCKETS VS. THE NBA
âThe Rockets and people affiliated with the team have a propensity to say things that annoy the NBA and fans of the league at large.
No, weâre not talking about the Hong Kong situation that was ignited by general manager Daryl Morey.
âFor example, the aforementioned Morey said that Rocketsâ MVP James Harden is âfactually a better scorer than Michael Jordan.â
After their gut wrenching loss in the Western Conference Finals to the Golden State Warriors in 2018, the Rockets sent a memo to the league, charting how the referees cost them the game, and the title.
During the 2019 playoffs, where they again lost to the Warriors, they used the same methodology to dispute a game 1 loss.
Both the Athletic and ESPN uncovered the news earlier this year.
Finally, in the ultimate display of pettiness, the Rocketsâ official Twitter account sent out a tweet ârespectfully disagreeingâ with the NBA naming Milwaukee Bucksâ forward Giannis Antetokounmpo as the league MVP in 2019.
In a series of, since deleted tweets, the Rockets highlight all of Hardenâs accomplishments as reasons he should have won.
Loser: The Rockets. Just poor form all around from a team that shouldnât have to resort to this level of shenanigans.
STEPH CURRY VS. THE MEDIA
The two-time league MVP is getting a reminder on what life is like at the bottom of the mountain.
For the better part of five seasons, the Warriors and Steph have been the toast of the NBA. Going to five consecutive Finals, and winning three titles.
They made few friends, and shimmied and gloated as they dominated the competition. Rightfully so.
The KD and Steph 2017 Warriors might be the greatest team of all time. But nothing lasts forever.
KD is gone, Steph is hurt and out indefinitely and the Warriors are the worst team in the NBA.
Yes, they are worse than the Knicks.
Before Steph got injured and the Warriors won their first game of the season, Steph had a message for those piling on the Warriors.
"Everybody loves to label you when you're down or when you're losing," Curry said to ESPN. "That's easy. It's easy to get on TV and say whatever you want. It's easy to just throw darts at a team that's trying to figure it out based on how much success we've had. I hope people can start to see through that and understand what we're about as a team and what we're going to build toward. That's basically it. If you want to get on and say whatever you want to say, and fill that 24-hour news cycle, that's cool with us. We're still going to hoop and just play basketball."
Yes Steph, thatâs what we are going to do. You are correct, the 24-hour news cycle needs to be filled. When the Warriors were winning and dominating you and the team had no issues with everyone lavashing the completely deserved praise upon you.
Welcome to the other side.
âWinner: The fan bases of all the other NBA teams, and those that thrive on schadenfreude.